I am a complete sucker for a book featuring a good moral dilemma and The Guilty Party fits the bill completely! The question is, how guilty are you if you witness a crime but do nothing? One of the things that appeals about these types of books is that it makes me think – not only what would I do but also whether or not the actions of the characters reflect society.
A group of four university friends go to a music festival, in the spirit of keeping their friendship alive into their thirties. They are totally wrapped up in their own lives. When they leave the music behind they witness a man following a woman down a dark alley way – they try to look the other way but it appears a violent sexual assault takes place. The four do nothing. Having met them none of them seem particularly nice people but I did find it shocking that out of the four only Cassie seemed to feel any overt guilt when a body is found, drowned. The suspicion being this was the victim of the crime they witnessed. It is interesting that the characters are youngish but not ‘young’ and so this links with my wondering if this does in fact reflect the actions of a generation, or has the author created a pessimistic viewpoint.
The book is set fairly soon after the main event and each of the four characters reveal more about themselves, and their friendship. I found that these revelations about the characters to be if anything more disturbing than their lack of compassion for a fellow human. I was left feeling that the ties that bind the four together should have been severed years before, or better still not allowed to flourish in the first place.
The plotting was great as was the characterisation although with so many unpleasant characters, particularly of a ‘type’ meant that I was perhaps less engaged than I would normally be whilst reading. The dilemma at the book’s heart had me thinking though and although this certainly isn’t the first book that has explored this subject matter I felt the back story to the group of friends added an extra dimension.
So while this was a frankly uncomfortable read at times, I absolutely needed to find out more and that after all is the mark of a good writer.
I’d was incredibly fortunate in that HQ for allowed me to read a copy of The Guilty Party and this unbiased review is my thanks to them, and the author, for an intriguing and thought-provoking read.